Capitalizing on trends and partnerships
The Life Sciences research enterprise has been experiencing major changes in its nature as key advances are now rarely reported by individual scientists. Today, for a scientific discovery to be made, the teams of scientists who collaborate across disciplines and oceans are continuously expanding in size & scope.
This changing landscape has led pharmaceutical corporations and life science companies to forge new types of partnerships with biotechnology vendors across the globe. The goal of this collaboration is new technologies, products and services that are developed rapidly and specifically for the needs of research and development teams. As a result, the current approach to understanding the process involved in cellular function and disease has become more holistic and realistic than in the past.
In this new environment, relationships between suppliers and clients have evolved whereby both entities share the work of development as well as some of the risk that any development incurs. For pharmaceutical companies in particular, partnerships are becoming essential and the strategic focus is now on joint development projects. Since technical development is embedded in every step of the development process, and receiving early input reduces the risk, the seller-buyer relationship is now characterized by collaboration.
Another trend that has emerged within the past year is that biotechnology and pharmaceuticals have become authentically global industries. Specifically, the dynamic driving healthcare and biotechnology in the United States fueled by the increased aging of the population and expanding life expectancy is also true globally.
North America and Western Europe no longer control the vast bulk of R&D in biotechnology, as scientists in several third world nations have stepped up to undertake excellent research in the subject. This has led entrepreneurs worldwide to set up companies based on innovative advances with the take-up of biotechnology products in Brazil, Korea and Taiwan reduced from five years to one because of the Internet. These global trends have changed the rules of the game for the dominating 20 or 30 North American and European companies as well as created economies of scale for doing some biotechnology work in China and Brazil, as compared to California.
Pyrosequencing, a Swedish firm that specializes in enabling technologies for DNA analysis, and Protreom Systems, an Australian drug discovery firm have both poised themselves to take advantage of this niche by focusing on international deals in emerging markets. These new developments have led to technology out of Brazil, China, and Australia that is commercializable.
In certain global markets such as Singapore, biotechnology has been targeted as the scientific wave of the future through a national initiative with the Singapore government making a large investment in the subject. Such national initiatives by Asian countries have aimed at not only attracting overseas investments but also at building infrastructure rather than intellectual property. This in turn will generate the growth of companies that build on intellectual capital.
The result is that suppliers to the industry will have to make their products available worldwide as evidenced by standardization of purchasing and internal processes while looking for the higher quality equipment and support.
As for the forms of collaboration in developing products and technologies for the life science industry, these have taken several forms including internal partnerships within a single corporate umbrella that lead to a joint venture between the two. Such partnerships enable dialogue that generates synergies and in the life science industries. It specifically creates benefits from the specific strengths of these individual corporate units. Tools from Applied Biosystems Corp and data from Celera Genomics Group, two parts of life science corporation Applera, led to the creation of Celera Diagnostics, a joint venture between the two.
As biotechnology companies are moving into more sophisticated platforms which necessitate larger investments by the customers, they are partnering as suppliers to understand what their customer is doing. Amersham pioneered the concept of technology access and technology transfer agreements back in the mid 90’s and has been partnering with customers in so many areas to take advantage of opportunities to develop products. Through extensive testing of new products in the market, the pharmaceutical company can enable collective development of products.
Among those who have become particular targets for close collaborations and risk-sharing partnerships are IT and bioinformatics, as these represent a win-win situation for both sides. While most pharmas and drug discovery companies lack the qualified people and technology to make sense of their drug discovery research, bioinformatics have learned that they cannot live by data generation alone. Several bioinformatics companies offer suites of software programs for genomics research, some of which include ‘searching’ using IT companies. Compaq, IBM Life Sciences and Sun Microsystems are in turn continuously developing systems that will allow these life science researchers to perform their daily tasks without interruption. As a result, these players have discovered that collaborations which combine long-term research with technical strengths enable both a market-led and customer-led development that doesn’t have an obvious impact on the bottom line.
There are huge opportunities on the horizon for biotechnology organizations and the suppliers that provide them with the tools needed for their work. While researchers are teaming up to tackle problems and answer questions, biotechnology companies are beginning to bring life-changing products to market after years of investment in R&D. The partnerships that are coming about with pharmaceutical firms and other collaborators are ensuring that better products reach the market faster. All that remains to fully capitalize on these emerging tides is an understanding of how to integrate novel IT-based and knowledge management-based drug discovery technologies into platforms that are commercially attractive.